JUDGING: WHEN MMA BECOMES FIGURE SKATING
–Kenny Rice, Inside MMA Anchorman
You sit in the comfort of your living room with the benefit of watching replays of the highlights just as the round ends. You sit cage side at the event fixed upon the large screens over head reviewing the highlights to reinforce what you just saw in live action.
At home or at the fight, you’ve made your decision. I’ve done both as well. We know who won that round, how it should be scored, maybe even a 10-8 dominance. That’s what we all saw, didn’t we?
So how did the judges, the experts, screw it up? How did they not see that? What were they watching?
We have received several emails during the course of Inside MMA asking these questions. Several have come in recent days over the unanimous decision victory of Diego Sanchez over Martin Kampmann at UFC Live in Louisville. It was a classic, bloody brawl and certainly an early candidate for fight of the year recognition.
Not all the viewers thought Sanchez won, but most were surprised it wasn’t at least a split decision. Sanchez told me as we walked through the arena tunnel “I won it, the judges saw I won it. I’m not thinking rematch that’s up to the UFC.”
And why wouldn’t he or any fighter getting an across the board verdict feel any other way? To men who made a difference, the judges, he won that fight convincingly. My opinion differs for a unanimous vote but then I was only sitting along press row, my decision didn’t count. Yours didn’t count.
The Monday Morning Quarterback, the Armchair Coach, they are what makes sports in general so interesting. We all can second guess everything. Why did he call that play? I don’t think he pops off the screens like he used to, do you? Anyone could see he was out of bounds except the ref, am I right?
Here’s what makes it more frustrating in MMA than longer established sports–there aren’t enough judges with MMA backgrounds. They, like the sport they are judging, simply haven’t been around that long. Most of the judges come to MMA from boxing or wrestling backgrounds.
Depending on their field of expertise, a solid punch is just as impressive as a take down, and vice versa. Flailing away instead of actually landing strikes that matter catch the attention of a judge with a ground game resume’. Riding a fighter on the ground scores points in college wrestling, and bores a judge (and most fans) with boxing credentials in MMA competition.
I remember calling a fight in Atlantic City where the defending champ had six takedowns and at least three solid submission attempts, but did take two hard punches that knocked him against, not down, but against the fence over the three rounds. He lost his belt in a unanimous decision. The judges were old boxing guys, they remembered the hits, not the control of the fight the champ showed.
It will take a few more years before former MMA fighters, coaches, take time to focus on another career, that of a judge, before it gets closer to being right. Let’s face it, there is no glory or riches in being a judge of referee. Few notices when they do a good job. It’s easier to point out how they blew it.
That is the conundrum of boxing to this day when it goes to the judges. Even after a century of squared circle action, both corners hold their breath when it comes down to a decision, just like MMA now.
I don’t question the honesty, the integrity of judges. I do, like most of you, question some of their evaluations. But it is the way of combative sports.
When it becomes subjective, even 260 pound fighters (or pick your weight class) are the same as 99 pound figure skaters in the Olympics. No matter how they perform it still comes down to a judge’s decision.
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